MATTHEWS TO STONE: IF YOU LIVE IN A GLASS HOUSE . . . .
Oliver Stone doesn’t like me. I have written often of my contempt for what this guy puts on the screen, the lies he has told, especially to America’s young people.
In one movie, “JFK,” he showed President Lyndon Johnson conspiring with the Joint Chiefs in the plot to kill John F. Kennedy. In “Nixon,” he portrayed his title character as guilt-racked for recruiting what ultimately became the Dallas hit team. His films are filled with this stuff.
Stone accuses a campy J. Edger Hoover of killing Robert Kennedy. He shows us a cartoon Cuban exile named “Desi” chatting casually with Richard Nixon the night of Nov. 21, 1963, about the prospect of killing Kennedy before the next election.
I have pointed out in numerous columns that none these accusations is supported by an iota of evidence. Imagine my surprise, then, in discovering whom the Los Angeles Times had let review my book, “Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America."(June 16)
Even Stone admitted that “ ‘Nixon’ is not history. It is a dramatic portrait set against an historic landscape.” In other words, it is fiction.
What did this writer of dramatic portraits set against historic landscapes have to say about my book? No surprise here. The gist of Stone’s bizarre assault was that I failed to propagate the wild assassination conspiracies, what he calls “deep politics.”
To this I happily plead guilty. I describe history as I’m able to discover it. A case in point is my reading of the Watergate cover-up. All the available evidence, including an interview I had with Nixon’s chief-of-staff H. R. Haldeman the month before he died, convinced me that Nixon meant what we thought he meant in that notorious “smoking gun” tape of June 23, 1972. When he told Haldeman to tell top CIA officials that “the president believes this is going to open the whole Bay of Pigs thing up again,” he meant just that.
Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” presents a grander theory than we journalists and historians are capable of producing. Where Nixon said “Bay of Pigs,” Stone detects a clear reference to CIA efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro, which in Stone’s argument ultimately led to the killing of John F. Kennedy by those same anti-Castro forces.
One of the reasons Stone detests me is that I have dared point out the nonsense in this web of dark speculation. When “Nixon” was released last year, Stone put out literature saying that his grand conspiracy was based on a ghost-written book put out by Haldeman during the months of post-Watergate imprisonment. I broke the bad news that in my interview with him before he died, Haldeman disclaimed authorship of the conspiracy theory so prized by Stone.
What Stone must hate most however, is the realization that the real saga of Kennedy and Nixon is a far more intriguing story than the claptrap “Nixon,” which cost Stone’s studio so much money.
CHRISTOPHER MATTHEWS, WASHINGTON D.C. (Matthews’ letter appeared as his regular opinion column in other newspapers.)
I am astonished that you would print what purports to be a legitimate criticism by Oliver Stone of a historical book on Kennedy and Nixon . . . .
His carelessness with facts may have been good theater and thus warranted Oscar nominations for his pictures, but I believe that they have certainly been classified as historical junk. His pictures have seriously misled many people concerning the lives of the two men discussed in the book.
ROBERT E. CHRISTIANSEN, ARROYO GRANDE
I must commend you for publishing Oliver Stone’s review of “Kennedy & Nixon.”
There is a misconception concerning Kennedy’s involvement in events during and after his presidency. He didn’t plan the Bay of Pigs invasion; the CIA and Vice President Nixon had plans ready before he entered the White House. The CIA convinced him to approve it and never forgave him after he refused to allow the use of American air power. In addition, Kennedy knew our involvement in Vietnam was a failure and planned to remove all American troops by 1965.
TIM SWANSON, TORRANCE
Thanks to Stone for exposing the factual errors in Matthew’s book.
I would like to add what no one seems to want to say in print. I believe the “Bay of Pigs” was a joint plan of organized crime, the CIA and Nixon to get Cuba back into the gambling and money-laundering business. Nixon’s links to organized crime are well-known. Thanks to Stone for his vigilance in exposing another book of blatant disinformation.
BURT WILSON, SIMI VALLEY
As the historian who completed for Whittier College nearly 400 oral history interviews, limited solely to Nixon’s pre-political years, I immediately investigated this latest of a barrel full of biographies on Nixon since his death. I agree with Stone that this is lacking in certain fundamentals essential to true historical scholarship.
The author refers to the Nixon materials at Laguna Niguel. He gives the impression, possibly unintentional, of incorporating the oral history interviews in his work. Unfortunately, public access to these scholarly and virtually unduplicated resources is still being denied by the federal government.
C. RICHARD ARENA, CHINO
While I admire Stone’s ability to turn his dementia into money, I found it difficult to believe he was chosen to review “Kennedy & Nixon” because of his obvious bias. Stone could hardly be expected to offer a rational review since, like so many other baby boomers trapped in a ‘60s mentality, he deifies Kennedy, elevating . . . what can only be described as a mediocre president to mythical greatness.
I was wrong, however, dead wrong. Stone’s review proved infinitely amusing--with a few outright guffaws to boot!
I laughed until my sides hurt when Stone wrote, “This curious revisionist effort to resurrect Nixon’s bedeviled legacy at the expense of Kennedy’s sainted one goes on.” Stone obviously has swallowed the often repeated Kennedy family litany that Kennedy “sacrificed himself on the altar of his country” hook, line and sinker. In truth, Kennedy . . . sacrificed himself on the altar of power.
T. G. CYN, LAGUNA HILLS